Everloop: A Social Network with Training Wheels

Everloop: A Social Network with Training Wheels

Everloop Goobit, a strictly-for-kids social network, aims to attract parents and kids with privacy and safety elements that may help the startup gain a niche in the social media race.

The moderated social network, meant for children under the age of thirteen, prevents kids from posting profanity, engaging in cyberbullying or conducting other inappropriate behavior. Rather than simply deleting such posts, an Everloop pop-up window explains what’s wrong and offers suggestions for correction.

“All kids try to push the envelope,” said CEO Hilary DeCesare, “but when they do, we want to notify them.”

DeCesare’s comment suggests her site may be a good training ground in social behavior, since it provides immediate feedback to correct behaviors like online bullying. The result is helping to guide children on appropriate behavior on social media while they are actually engaged in online connection.

Cyber bullying is on the rise, with over 60 percent of kids reporting bad experiences according to the Norton Online Family Report. If Everloop can work to lower these statistics, it may quickly become a popular site, part of the new “starter” social networks for younger children.

In addition to these safety valves, Everloop keeps moms and dads informed of children’s online activities through regular notifications. The site permits them to monitor all friend requests and communications but does not allow any parental posts to children’s profile pages.

Everloop is bringing its privacy features to an iOS version this month, as the company seeks to reach increasingly plugged-in tweens on their mobile devices.

“Everloop’s release of the first mobile social app for kids comes as more than half of all children have access to a mobile device and that immediately raises safety concerns,” said CMO Sandy Barger. “Our app will help ensure that Everloop kids have a safer social option for them to connect with their friends and interests.”

Most U.S. children now have access to smartphones and tablets, while around 10 percent of kids younger than eight use mobile devices daily, according to Common Sense Media.

To ensure these children’s online and mobile safety, Everloop follows the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA, which requires parental consent for underage users’ Internet activities. Everloop is ahead of Facebook in this measure, since the social networking giant has not yet modified its site to comply with COPPA. Instead, it restricts use to those over 13 and regularly closes violators’ accounts.

Still, tweens continue to cultivate secret Facebook profiles, clamoring to enter the online world despite parental misgivings. The social network consequently faces backlash from angry parents and rights groups alleging it does not do enough to stop kids from creating fake profiles.

To solve these problems, CEO Mark Zuckerberg has expressed interest in repealing COPPA, saying this would allow Facebook to modify its site for young people without restricting current adult access.

It does not seem likely to happen soon, but should Facebook succeed in lobbying to repeal COPPA, Everloop may face serious competition. Nearly eight million kids, most under age ten, use Facebook despite the company’s efforts to keep them from joining illegally.

Meantime, Everloop’s unique platform may gradually entice children away from Facebook with games, videos, “loops” and “Goobs.” Loops are Everloop’s kid-driven interest groups where children can discuss everything from Justin Bieber to golden retriever puppies. Goobs are practical joke features allowing kids to throw virtual toilet paper or food at each other’s screens.

Kids might find such features more exciting than Facebook’s adult-oriented games, which could strengthen Everloop’s user base and ultimately ensure its success in the online world. And, given the site’s strict privacy and safety controls, parents may eagerly support kids who express interest in creating Everloop profiles, creating a generation of kids raised with some basic social networking practice, who will be better skilled at navigating the increasingly digitized communication future that is ahead of them.

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